The final film in David Gordon Green’s lopsided trilogy desperately wants to be anything but a Halloween movie
Halloween Ends is the middle finger on the monkey’s paw that is success in modern Hollywood. In 2018 David Gordon Green and Danny McBride had a decent idea for a Halloween sequel. Nothing revolutionary, but well-paced with a good balance of slasher thrills and character exploration. Audiences and critics agreed, and, despite the satisfying finality of its ending, the Hollywood franchise machine went to work on a trilogy. What followed has been increasingly weak attempts to graft the Halloween brand onto first-draft thriller screenplays. Last year’s sequel, Halloween Kills, at least had some decent murder sequences to offset having no idea what it was about, but Halloween Ends is a bland, tonally jumbled shrug of a film that desperately wants to be anything but a Halloween movie.
The film opens on Halloween night 2019, where teen Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell, who deserves a better movie than this) is babysitting a kid named Jeremy (Jaxon Goldenberg) in Haddonfield, Illinois. When a prank goes horribly awry and Jeremy is killed, Corey is convicted of manslaughter. Three years later he’s released from prison and working as a mechanic in Haddonfield. The stigma of his crime follows him through town, where Myers’ rampage during the events of the first two films has caused the townspeople to see boogeymen around every corner. Corey endures vicious harassment from a group of local asshole teens — who only seem to exist in movies like this — and after a particularly violent encounter he is rescued by Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, sleepwalking her way through contractual obligation) who knows a thing or two about the stigma of a violent past. Laurie sends Corey to see her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) — now working as a nurse — who treats his cut hand and warns him about infection. Allyson is inexplicably attracted to Corey because the script needs her to be, which sets in motion an agonizingly belabored romance subplot around which much of the film revolves.
Corey becomes increasingly resentful of his treatment by the people of Haddonfield and, after a disastrous experience during a date with Allyson at a Halloween party, stumbles into an underground cavern inhabited by none other than Michael Myers. In a weakened state Myers is unable to kill Corey but seems to “infect” him with the desire to kill, sending him out into the world to act as Michael’s murderer-by-proxy.
So the metaphor here is that evil is an infectious disease that can wipe out a community if allowed to spread. It’s a cute idea on paper, but the imperative to make this a Halloween sequel forces Green and his co-writers to hack off entire limbs of the premise to serve the brand and make sure Laurie Strode gets her noble sendoff. If evil is an infection, then what’s the cure? Here in 2022 we know a thing or two about infection — and quite a bit about evil, too — so the solution is for the community to come together to protect its most vulnerable, right? Oh, no, it’s Laurie going rogue again to hunt down and murder the source of the disease. In Ends, the solution seems to not lie in communal support, self-awareness, or love but plain, old-fashioned vigilantism — the individual taking it upon themselves to vanquish evil. We’ve seen just how well militant individualism has worked on a real-life mass infection, so the metaphor in Ends just doesn’t hold together.
While we’re incorporating real-life events into the story, the film is awash in bizarre and tonally troubling choices in the wake of modern-day social movements. The film asks us to feel sorry for a man unjustly persecuted for an alleged mistake he made in the past (and his character development casts doubt on whether it really was a mistake), which is a weird theme to hang your movie on in the post-MeToo era. Similarly, several of Corey’s bullies are Black, and while I don’t think Green had bad intentions, it reveals a lack of social awareness to depict a white man taking revenge on the Black people who were mean to him. While Halloween Kills seemed way too focused on the political environment it was made in, Ends feels completely detached from it.
Despite the plot’s clear emphasis on the actions of individuals, the film gives an awful lot of lip service to the word “community.” Yet hardly anybody in Haddonfield actually seems to interact unless it’s to scream accusations at one another. Is the point that communities are only capable of coming together after evil has been eradicated? But the community bears no responsibility in eradicating that evil? The complete misunderstanding of social movements and the concept of justice gave me flashbacks to Todd Philips’ 2019 film Joker. Both films seem to wave their arms at this vague concept that “everybody’s just so angry nowadays!,” as if that anger is indiscriminate and unknowable, as mysterious and terrifying as a murderer in a mask. Neither film seems to understand that the anger expressed over the last several years has a very clear target, and emphasizes the necessity of communal cohesion to overcome the causes of that anger, the source of that evil.
I could at least forgive the listless storytelling and muddled tone of Halloween Ends if the horror elements were on point, but the film’s tension and gore are as weak as its story. Every time you think things are finally going to kick into gear with some proper slasher kills the plot cuts back to the interminable mopefest that is Corey and Allyson and a similarly perfunctory love story between Laurie and Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton). The first film in the trilogy excelled at balancing action and character, the second at least had action, but this film is a lot like Michael Myers: weak, tired, and ready to die. It’s called Halloween Ends and I couldn’t wait for it to.
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